Chicago was the starting point for a cross-country adventure that my sister just returned from. We both have a fascination with trains and last year we took our first cross-country trip on the California Zephyr from San Francisco to the halfway point in Denver. This year we decided to do the most popular route all the way from start to finish. The Empire Builder begins in Chicago and ends in either Seattle or Portland. I was excited to start a voyage like this in a real classic station. Union Station in Chicago, is one of the grandest still in operation.
Work began on this massive 10 city block complex in 1913 and it was finally opened in 1925. It’s exterior is massive, but the subtle detailing hints at what you will find inside.
The door handles on the entries have steam era train wheels as a part of the motif. Union Station is all about the details.
These brass flowers adorn the lamp posts on the main floor – each one is a piece of art.
Elegant brass handrails are worn smooth with almost a century’s use. The ornate supports retain their fine detail.
Massive Corinthian marble columns support the Grand Hall’s vaulted ceilings.
Marble Stairs worn by millions of footsteps can be treacherous today.
The vaulted glass ceiling floods the floor of the Hall with natural light.
This is the massive staircase that you enter onto from the street level.
To All Trains – from the Great Hall floor your are now below street level and can enter the gates for boarding.
As grand as the Grand Hall is, it is just a facade. You get on the train here, below grade on a dark platform.
Even if the platform lacks the impressiveness of the station, boarding here is a real experience. There is a special lounge for sleeping car passengers and boarding is almost stress free, especially compared to air travel. A station like this prepares you for the grand voyage ahead filled with purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain. A pretty good way to start the journey of a lifetime.